In the sixth consecutive week of protests in Hong Kong that started in opposition to a much-maligned extradition bill, a peaceful rally today turned violent as scuffles broke out between protesters and police inside a shopping center. Police mentioned they arrested 37 people in the wake of the protest, and that 11 officers had been injured.
The protest was situated in the suburban Shatin area of the city—the second to take place within the New Territories region of Hong Kong, far from the financial and shopping hubs that hosted earlier marches. Organizers say it drew 115,000 people, while the police claim attendance was far lower at 28,000.
The demonstration started peacefully, with individuals marching for a number of hours shouting slogans and weaving by way of closely residential neighborhoods alongside a river. However, the atmosphere quickly turned tense after police deployed pepper spray, which galvanized crowds to deliver supplies, including helmets and goggles, to the front lines, demarcated by barriers set up by protesters to dam police.
Following a scuffle that lasted several hours on the street, police tried to clear crowds off the roads by sending in riot police, eventually making protesters who hadn’t dispersed from the scene into the shopping mall, New Town Plaza. There, protesters hurled objects including umbrellas, helmets, and bottles at the police, who were at one point vastly outnumbered. After backup arrived, officers in riot gear charged up escalators to the various floors of the mall, using batons and pepper spray as they beat their way toward protesters. People have been additionally seen throwing objects at cops from upper levels of the mall.